Channel Chiefs: What Keeps Them Up At Night?

Channel Days, Sleepless Nights

Whether it's moving fast enough to grab market share, investing in the right training and certification to keep partners on the forefront of emerging technology or simply making sure their message is heard, the fears and doubts nagging at top vendor channel executives are many of the same concerns that plague solution providers. Executives participating in the CRN Channel Chief Roundtable shared exclusive insight into challenges they face on a daily basis. Here's a look at some things that keep channel chiefs from getting enough sleep.

Richard McLeod

Senior Director, Worldwide Collaboration Channel Sales

What keeps me up at night is how quickly our partners can capture the market transition. We're probably seeing more market transitions occurring at this point in time than I've seen in my 30-plus years in this industry. There are major transitions going on in mobility, virtualization, video, and also in terms of social [media]. Each of those creates opportunities and threats -- and do our partners evolve quickly enough and are we, as a vendor, enabling them quickly enough to capture the upside there. I think we're putting the tools out there. I think most of the partners know that they need to change. The question is, are we getting the tools to the right partners with the right degree of enthusiasm and as quickly as possible?

Craig Schlagbaum

Vice President, Indirect Channel Sales

We've only been at this a couple years. We're a $60 billion company and segueing into the channel for the first time ever. It's been an exciting ride, and what concerns me the most is how we deal with the vast number of partners we need to enable the pivot, because they're in the thousands. We went from zero partners selling into thousands over a course of a year, and far more now as we go on. So it's how do we enable all those partners to make this transformation and make sure that they're equipped with the appropriate skills to deal with the questions they are going to face from end-user customers in dealing with the volume there. It's becoming very large.

Tony Anderson

Director, Indirect Marketing, Enterprise Group Americas

I think what keeps me up at night is hearing from a reseller that says, "Gee, I didn't know you did that." So I think the portfolio offer needs to be understood and it needs to be articulated. We're trying to change that certainly at HP. No. 2 is that same partner not understanding the programs that we offer. [Partners] being able to maximize their profitability with HP is clearly something we worry about. [It's something] we're trying to make sure that we enable those partners to do.

Michael Kozel

Vice President, Partner Management
SAP America

What keeps me up at night is building skills in the channel and retaining skills because that's very, very challenging for our partners right now. We're continuing to be challenged and work on awareness in SME that our solutions can go downstream. So then channel acceptance -- just internally getting the channel to evolve within SAP -- is something that we work on every day.

Janet Schijns

Vice President, Medium Business and Channels
Verizon Enterprise Solutions

Smith-Corona keeps me up at night because the year before that technology started to decline, their channel partners had the best year they'd ever had. Why? Because they fell in love with the technology, and then they stuck with it a little too long … They didn't realize that they weren't selling typewriters and pieces of paper with letters: They were selling a powerful answer for people communicating. And then when people started communicating via fax and email and other methods, the vast majority of those partners went out of business. So what keeps me up at night is how do I get that message across to the folks who've been selling network, who've been selling in the closet, who have been selling what they think is a cutting-edge technology when, in fact, it's becoming an enabler for cutting-edge technologies, which I believe are cloud and machine-to-machine.

Frank Rauch

Vice President, Americas Partner Organization

What keeps me up at night, regrets. So what I mean by that is, I think, we together collectively have a tremendous window of opportunity that's not going to stay open forever. I think, as a vendor, we need to be able to provide the enablement, the programs, the motivation, and the hope for the channel to be able to accelerate through the window. At VMware we have a unique environment. Again, we have over 450,000 people worldwide that have raised their hand and said, "I bought vSphere." The ability to extend that base, to be able to extend the life of that base, and to be able to go wide with that base is just tremendous, but it won't be there forever. So how do we move faster, how do we put more agility into the channel?